White elephant F35 fighter jet may never defend Australia
Australia took delivery of two F-35A Lightning II Block 2B aircraft amid much fanfare at the Avalon air show in Victoria earlier this year. Several more are in the late stages of construction, due for delivery next year.
These are almost exactly the same in their specifications to the 108 F-35A Block 2Bs delivered so far to the United States Air Force.
But a controversial development and delivery contract process – known as concurrency – has produced an aircraft with software and components that were never fully tested.
The argument was computer simulation could streamline the whole process, eliminating risk, reducing cost and speeding up delivery.
Now two senior US Pentagon officials responsible for the F-35 program have admitted they are seriously considering abandoning vital upgrades of those aircraft already delivered.
And Australia has at least two Block 2B F-35s that will likely require many millions being sunk into reconstruction and upgrade before they are fully capable of fighting on the front line.